Books to read before you start teacher training

Your teacher training year will be full of learning opportunities, but what can you read to get you started? One teacher shares some suggestions

James Oddy


Congratulations! Finding out that you have a place on an initial teacher training route, whatever it may be, can be a real turning point in your life.

Securing your place in teacher training may be the fulfilment of a childhood dream, or the result of a well-thought-out career change. Often, though, the excitement will be mixed with anxiety about how best to prepare for training.

Below are some suggestions to help ease those pre-course nerves and harness your enthusiasm.

Boost your subject knowledge

Regardless of whether you’re teaching early years, primary, secondary or further education, knowing your subject is the most empowering thing you can do for yourself and also your students.

The confidence that you feel knowing that you’re well prepared, and how that radiates out, can really smooth the transition into teacher training.

Most courses will undertake some type of "knowledge audit" that will help guide you to your own gaps, of which there will be a few. But that isn’t something to panic about. Aside from your provider supporting you, there’s a number of subject- and stage-specific books out there.

The Making Every Lesson Count series, from Crown House is a great start. Although more secondary-focused, they can also support those training for other settings with practical and clear strategies.

For primary teachers, Bloomsbury offers a range of guides for teachers to develop their subject knowledge for key stage 2 and key stage 3.

And don't underestimate the power of simply reading all the text books and reading texts you will be doing with your students. It's a great use of your time, even if you've read them before.

Choose a behaviour book that speaks to you

Behaviour management may be the biggest concern most trainees have: how do you do it? Can you do it? What if you can’t do it?

Behaviour is a real hot topic in British schools and the discourse around education, so going in with some idea about that will stand you in great stead. "Warm/strict", "RP" ,"prog" and "trad" are all terms thrown around and these can be quite bewildering to a relative novice.

Finding a philosophy of behaviour management that works for you, both on a personal level and for your placement school, should help you to feel more confident and help you to make career choices down the road.

There's a plethora of books out there offering some excellent practical strategies about what to do. And, importantly, what not to do. 

My advice would be to read, with as open a mind and attitude as possible, as much as you can about it, then see how practical the ideas are once you’re in the classroom.

Try the Tes book review hub for ideas of where to start. You can find reviews of Stand Up Straight, How to Own the Room and many more.

Two of my must-reads: 

The Uses of Literacy: aspects of working-class life by Richard Hoggart

Maybe this is a left-field choice, as it isn’t a teaching book at all. But this text looks at many "big picture" ideas around social division, pop culture and class; and how they can be impacted and manipulated.

One thing that struck me when I entered teaching was how much of an agent for change you can be, but how so much of what is external to your classroom can influence that change. That felt overwhelming at first, but this book helped focus my thoughts and arrange them into a manageable way.  

Despite being more than 60 years old, this cornerstone text of cultural studies should get the cogs whirring about what your role is on a wider scale, and how you want to go about making the most of it.

Read this journal article via JSTOR

The Lost Girls by Charlotte Woolley

Something of a sister book to the equally excellent Boys Don’t Try, this book can help the reader slay some of the most enduring education myths surrounding gender-based expectations in schools.

With excellent evidence, research and practical suggestions, this is a really accessible text to help you challenge your own preconceptions. Certainly, it helped me to think differently about why certain thought patterns around gender in schools had emerged in the first place.

Buy this book via Waterstones

James Oddy is an English teacher from Leeds and he tweets from @oddy1j


Tes Institute S2T

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